...And That's My Opinion©

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon

 

 Second in a series: “What Happened?”

 

HOWARD STREET — A HELLUVA STREET

 

 

 

IT WASN’T STATE STREET AND IT WASN’T A GREAT STREET BUT IT WAS HOWARD STREET—A HELLUVA STREET.

 

“Remember,” my friend said to me after reading the last column The Morse Avenue Card Players, “We were 18 years old, seniors at Lake View High School.  We had I.D.s that said we were 23 years old.  We went to Howard Street for fun times and we found them”.

 

If we did not have dates we took the El—no safety problems in those days (or maybe daze).  If we had dates we rode in my yellow Chevy Impala convertible.

 

We drove down Sheridan Road from the Lake View neighborhood. We passed the Vodvil Lounge at Montrose Ave. featuring a young comic named George Gobel.  We passed the pretty pink palace that was the Edgewater Beach Hotel.  We could peek at the tops of the poolside cabanas.  If our timing was right we could witness the arrival of the tux and gown crowd going inside to hear Xavier Cugat or some other notable entertainer.

 

We put the top down.  It was mystery:  the stars, the moon and station W.I.N.D on the radio.  I think we listened to Howard Miller or some other D.J personality.

 

In those days the front seats of automobiles were bench type seats.  If you were in a special relationship your date would slide close to you. The gearshifts were on the steering wheel column.  If you were in a particularly close relationship your date would put her hand on your thigh. It was mystery.  No, it was ecstasy!

 

We traveled north on Sheridan Road and we made a right turn at the Granada Theatre.  Maybe we stopped at the hot dog stand on the corner. I think it was called Herbies. Maybe we bought shrimp at Davey Jones Locker, then past the Town House restaurant and the park at Touhy Avenue. At the King’s Arms restaurant (great food; great bar) that stood on a hill at the S.E corner we turned left into Howard Street.

 

And what a street it was!!

 

Our general stops were the Club Silhouette, Club Detour and Club Bar-O. We would listen to Herbie Fields, tenor sax player extraordinaire, a young Sarah Vaughn and the rhythms of Charlie Ventura and many other jazz musicians. On the east side of Paulina we would stop at the 76 Club or Jim Crowley’s or George Horn’s. Then crossing the street we pushed through the swinging doors of Bill and Sade Stern’s Dude Ranch hand then to Angelo’s Dazzle Lounge and then the Acorn Lounge and finally Irv Wolf’s Horseshoe Inn. The people who ran the clubs knew us.  Did they know that we were underage?  I do not know—did anybody care? We were well behaved most of the time but particularly if we had dates.  We had money to spend and we spent it.

 

We shared the streets with the G.I.s from Ft. Sheridan, Great Lakes and Glenview Naval Air Station. They came via the Chicago & Northwestern R.R or the Northshore Electric Train. All the surrounding towns were dry. We shared the street with pimps, prostitutes and hustlers. But also with suburban kids who also had fake I.D.s.  Everyone had his or her place and everyone’s place was respected.

 

IT WASN’T STATE STREET AND IT WASN’T A GREAT STREET BUT IT WAS HOWARD STREET—A HELLUVA STREET.

 

There was top-level entertainment all around the street.  One place on Paulina featured a hypnotist named Dr. Barron who later became a renowned forensic hypnotist.  He amazed us, but we were more than a little fearful so we never volunteered.  There were first class restaurants: Villa Girgenti, Papa Milano’s, the Unique Restaurant and Lounge and Talbott’s BBQ that had the longest bar in Chicago (later they moved bar and all to Chase and Western). The others just went out of business!  For lighter snacks there was White Castle, west of the El and Pan Dee Snack Shop and the grill at the Howard Bowl. The lanes there were always busy and a great place, we noticed, for the G.I.s to meet girls.

 

Sometimes we went to the movies at the Norshore Theatre or the Howard Theatre. It was a way to get out of the house and bide time until the action began

 

That was Howard Street after dark:  a ravishing, raunchy, racy rendezvous.

 

IT WASN’T STATE STREET AND IT WASN’T A GREAT STREET BUT IT WAS HOWARD STREET—A HELLUVA STREET.

 

It was also a bit of a chameleon.

 

In the light of day it was a different street surrounded by other streets, residential in character: Juneway Tr., Jonquil Tr., Hermitage Ave, Marshfield Ave. There were desirable homes and large apartments.  The population was a mix of middle class and working class with a large sprinkling of upper class. The children went to the Stephen Gale Grammar School and had the highest tests scores in the city. Their parents shopped on Howard Street and on Paulina Street. They bought groceries at the Jewel Tea Food store.

 

Dumke Radio sold the first televisions sets to Rogers Parkers. Woolworth competed with Walgreen.  The latter was on the main floor of the Cuneo building at Howard and Ashland. George Reid’s Bootery and Mort Gibian Bootery fitted the ladies with the finest in footwear—some with European styling. Women bought dresses from Kay Campbell, Stolman’s or Loretta Kam.  Their husbands could shop Tuckers Store for Men. For the children they would go to Howard Juvenile.  For the sweet tooth—Davidson’s Bakery, Heinemann Bakery and the Fanny May candy shop.  No one who grew up in Rogers Park could/would forget the two ladies who ran Robert’s Card Shop—stern but friendly and great sales people.  The venerable Northshore Bank building at the corner of Howard and Hermitage housed the Chicago north-side offices of all the prominent downtown and North Shore MDs and DDSs.  Those who were not in this building had offices up the street at Clark and Howard (now the Pivot Point School building).

 

IT WASN’T STATE STREET AND IT WASN’T A GREAT STREET BUT IT WAS HOWARD STREET – A HELLUVA STREET. 

 

None remain. All are gone. In their place are  oh, drive there and take a look!!!.

 

If past is prologue maybe better things are to come!!!    

 

...And that's my opinion.

And I'm Sandy Goldman

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